Zooarchaeology

Egyptian mummy of a dog front and profile views

Zooarchaeology (or archaeozoology) is the branch of archaeology that studies faunal remains related to ancient people.[1] Faunal remains are the items left behind when an animal dies.[1] It includes: bones, shells, hair, chitin, scales, hides, proteins and DNA.[1] Of these items, bones and shells are the ones that occur most frequently at archaeological sites where faunal remains can be found.[1] Most of the time, most of the faunal remains do not survive.[1] They often decompose or break because of various circumstances.[1] This can cause difficulties in identifying the remains and interpreting their significance.[1]

Development

The development of zooarchaeology in Eastern North America can be broken up into three different periods.[2] The first being the Formative period starting around the 1860s, the second being the Systematization period beginning in the early 1950s, and the Integration period which began about 1969.[2] Full-time zooarchaeologists didn't come about until the Systematization period.[2] Before that it was just a technique that was applied but not specifically studied.

Zooarchaeological specialists started to come about partly because of a new approach to archaeology known as processual archaeology.[3] This approach puts more emphasis on explaining why things happened, not just what happened.[3] Archaeologists began to specialize in zooarchaeology, and their numbers increased from there on.[3]